Wednesday

20th Jan 2021

Misery at Greek migrant camp, despite €2bn of EU aid

  • An estimated 9,500 live in and around Moria, the highest population level there in four years (Photo: Save the Children)

Despite Greece receiving some €2bn in EU funding, conditions on Greek islands for thousands of stranded refugees remain grim, amid the recent murder of a 15-year old boy.

An African asylum seeker at the Moria EU hotspot on Lesbos island in Greece told EUobserver by phone on Wednesday (27 August) that basic things like working street lamps were missing.

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"We have few street lights working, the rest are not working," he said.

He asked to remain anonymous in case his public comments got him into trouble.

Entire families were sleeping rough, he also said.

Lack of food has compounded misery, with people sometimes queuing for meals only to be told there are none left, he added.

"They should transfer those who are sick, they should send them from the island [to the mainland]," he said.

The Moria-based asylum seeker said there was "a lot of violence" and that it was "getting worse - even yesterday night we slept from around 3AM. Before, there was a fight here between Afghanistan and Iran".

Last weekend, a 15-year old Afghan boy was killed after a fight broke out in the accommodation spaces for unaccompanied minors in a so-called "safe zone" at the facility.

Set up under the aegis of the European Union in late 2015 and dovetailed with a controversial return deal with Turkey, the people at the EU hotspot in Moria have suffered from years of neglect and abuse.

An estimated 9,500 currently reside in and around the camp, in what many have described as an open-air prison.

Moria is designed to house 3,000 people, but a recent spike in arrivals and the slow rate of transfers to mainland Greece have contributed to the population explosion, the highest in four years.

Over 1,000 arrived in Lesbos last week alone, according to the UN refugee agency (UNHCR).

Not our problem

The European Commission had itself described the conditions in Moria as untenable in early 2017, after people were left exposed to freezing conditions and a freak snow storm.

Asked on Wednesday if it still considered the conditions at the camp as "untenable", an EU commission spokeswoman laid the blame on Greece, saying its administration was responsible for the management of migration flows.

"Currently overall financial support stands at more than €2bn, which is the largest financial support we have ever provided to a member state for migration," she said.

She noted more than 60,000 applicants and refugees had been transferred from the islands to the mainland since last August.

"We continue to support these transfers, both operationally and financially," she added.

Greece's migration minister Dimitris Vitsas once pledged on Greek radio station 24/7 to improve the living conditions on the islands.

That pledge was made in September 2018.

Meanwhile, Oxfam, an international NGO, said the overcrowding and living conditions on the islands were deteriorating at an alarming pace.

Over a third of the migrant population trapped on Lesbos island were children, it added.

"In the first half of 2019, more than half of all migrants arriving in Europe through irregular routes, crossed from Turkey to Greece," the NGO said.

Oxfam is demanding EU and member states to lift restrictions that prevent asylum seekers on the Greek islands from being transferred to the mainland.

Analysis

EU praises Turkey on migrant deal despite Greek misery

The EU-Turkey deal was agreed two years ago in Brussels. Focus has largely been on reducing migrant flows across the Mediterranean and helping Syrian refugees in Turkey, while the plight of those on the Greek islands are ignored.

EU seeks another €3bn Turkey migrant deal

Money should flow despite concerns about the Turkish regime, the Commission said. EU should "pressure" African states to take back unwanted migrants, it added.

Opinion

Moria refugee camp is no place for people

Two years on from the highly-controversial EU-Turkey deal, many thousands of refugees are still trapped on Greek islands. One of them offers an open invitation to EU leaders to see their inhospitable conditions at the Moria refugee camp on Lesbos.

Asylum conditions on Greek islands 'untenable'

Germany is preparing to send people back to Greece with the EU's blessing, even though the EU commission has described snow-covered migrant camps on Greek islands as "untenable".

Opinion

EU split on migration widens

Failure to reform the EU's asylum system and to manage the crisis will likely push increasingly numbers of voters towards far-right and populist parties.

EU-Turkey migrant deal under pressure

Germany's chancellor says she is contact with Turkey over an EU deal to stop refugees from landing on Greek islands. But the arrival of over 500 in one day, amid grim conditions, piles on pressure.

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